Captain Robert Grose published his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1798, and Regency-era aficionados have been using it to bring life and a little sass to their stories and articles ever since.
The next time you settle down for a cozy read with Georgette Heyer (or any number of present-day Regency romance authors), you can thank Captain Grose when you come across these terms:
Banbury Tale or Banbury Story – A round-about, nonsensical story
Bear-garden Jaw – Rude, vulgar language, such as was used at the bear gardens
Quiz – An odd-looking fellow; a strange dog
Gudgeon – One easily imposed on. One who swallows the bait or falls into a trap
Pudding-headed Fellow – A stupid fellow, one whose brains are all in confusion
There have been similar dictionaries published since Grose’s original, but it wasn’t until 2011 when a thorough and worthy update to Grose’s dictionary appeared on the scene.
Compiled by Jonathon Green, Green’s Dictionary of Slang is a hefty, three-volume dictionary of the most vile, unrepeatable language to come out of Britains’ mouths over the last 500 years. Green’s Dictionary builds on Grose’s Vulgar Tongue, as well as The Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words published in 1859 by John Camden Hotten.
What makes Jonathon Green’s Dictionary so remarkable is the sheer size. Covering 500 years of cant, it weighs in at over 6,000 pages; there are over twelve thousand entries for the letter S alone.
If Jonathon Green’s Dictionary sounds like something you’d like to explore, you’re in luck. This month he launched Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online. Now, at the click of your mouse or a tap of your finger, you can immerse yourself in the definitions and etymology of the gutter-talk we blushingly can’t get enough of.
At Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online you can listen to the author’s recent podcast on terms for drink and drunkenness, or just browse the dictionary (arranged alphabetically) to your heart’s content (just make sure the kiddos aren’t looking over your shoulder).
If you ever wanted to expand your knowledge of Regency-era cant (or the slang of other English eras), Jonathan Green’s website should be your first stop.
You can click on the links below for more info:
Visit Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online
Read Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Captain Robert Grose
Read The Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words by John Camden Hotten